Wheel Alignment Basics

The Importance of Alignment

Not getting auto alignment service could seem like a good way to save money, but the reality is that it could cost a lot with stress on your drive shaft and steering rack, and on tire wear and tear. It could also be dangerous.

What Stilletos Have to Do with Suspension

Think about taking a long walk with unbalanced heels on your shoes. Then, imagine your car’s shoes as a pair of heels. Just like the stiletto points of a pair of heels, the tire rubber is the only part that touches the ground. Even a quarter of an inch or so would eventually cause trouble.

You would have to walk with a noticeable limp and would have to be more careful. When your auto is misaligned, you have to steer more carefully, even in otherwise safe conditions. And handling capability suffers.

Then, consider the toll of wearing mismatched heels over time. Your joints and muscles might have to work unevenly to make up for it, and this could affect your overall health. If a vehicle is not properly aligned, some joints and mechanisms would do too much work while others aren’t used to full efficiency, and all kinds of repairs could be necessary.

You know alignments are important as regular service, but that’s not the only time you should have this done. Here are some ways to know:

Signs Your Auto is Out Of Balance

  • Your tires are wearing unevenly
  • Your car pulls to one side when you drive in a straight line
  • Your car and floorboards starts vibrating at freeway speeds
  • You have lost handling capability
  • You have been in a crash
  • You have seen too many pot holes
  • You have run into curbs or parking barriers
  • You have avoided replacing tires
  • Your treads show a cupped wear pattern

It’s also good to learn about what we examine during alignment services. Here are some basic facts about what the technology and our technicians will consider.

  • Camber: This means whether your wheels are vertically aligned, perpendicular to the ground. Think of it as the angle of your legs with your feet either far apart or close together.
  • Caster: This one is complicated, and it has to do with the relationship of the wheels to the steering column and ball joints, steering knuckles and tie rod ends connecting them. Caster measures how this steering and suspension system, including the steering axis, is connected to the wheels, based on the position of upper and lower tie rods within the wheels.
  • Thrust angle: This compares alignment of the axles. They should generally be squared off with the car’s centerline.
  • Toe: In an alignment, the toe is the inward or outward slant of your wheels, as seen from the top. An inward tilt would be like standing pigeon-toed and an outward one would be duck feet. Could you walk like that in heels? Probably not very well.
    • Whether you need a basic alignment check, front-end alignment, a four-wheel alignment or a thrust angle alignment, call today. You might be surprised at the low cost compared to the problems skipping it could cause. Our experienced technicians can answer all your questions.